Ceyda Tanc at Transgressions 2019

By Michelle Dee

Kaya was tribal, ritualistic. I thought it was Egypt, Pharaohs with fantastic balance of emotion and strength and power, the strength being in performance and the ability of the dancers who although each individuals, worked seamlessly as one-Helen Powell, dancer

It will please choreographer Ceyda Tanc that Helen mentions ‘Pharaohs’ when responding to the dance work Kaya. Ceyda (pronounced Jayda) actively takes traditional Turkish male choreography for her company to embody and presents it within a contemporary score. I was very taken by the storytelling, astonished by the ability to create an atmosphere of intrigue and mysticism beside the burger stand in the indoor market. I am not sure whether it is I who is dreaming or they, but each dancer has a look in her eyes, almost hypnotic as if caught in a trance.   

Five extremely talented dancers dressed in loose sand-coloured garments shared a work about displacement and groups of people searching for a new community… fitting seeing as they were dancing right beside the food stalls all serving up international flavours. Lightness, strength, and connection characterise the work that is accompanied by an Eastern music score that builds to a dramatic conclusion. There are certain motifs and phrases that stand out: the pouring or anointing gesture; their version of the dervish circle; the lifts, with the feet floating on the air is majestic; the tenderness and resilience, as one dancer carries the other curled up on her back. All these different components help imbue the work with a sense of authenticity and history.

After the performance one of the dancers described to me how it is not easy to create an atmosphere, dancing by the burgers. Despite the challenges presented by the setting, the response from the Saturday crowds was reassuringly positive, each performance prompting enthusiastic and well-deserved applause.

‘Well choreographed’ and ‘Enjoyed seeing how strong they were: surprising’ and also ‘I have been inspired to make a costume just like theirs’ just a few of the comments from the crowds.   

No strangers to Hull the Ceyda Tanc company based in Brighton have collaborated with local dancers previously culminating in a show at Hull Truck. Ceyda who began her all-female dance company in 2012 has both British and Turkish heritage and perfectly exemplifies the dual culture theme running through Transgressions 2019.

It was during Ceyda’s final year of her degree at Roehampton researching traditional Turkish dance whereupon she received an invitation to a conservatoire in Turkey.  She describes how she learned a new movement vocabulary with an emphasis on the social, a world away from university. Ceyda now gives her company the opportunity to learn the choreography first hand by visiting the conservatoire themselves. Their approach to male choreography, owning and performing it themselves, challenges audiences to rethink gender stereotypes and the role of dance in cultural identity.

In a lovely bit of circularity Ceyda’s mentor was Yael Flexer the choreographer behind the opening event Smudge.

Michelle Dee is a Freelance Digital Media Journalist specialising in the Arts and Culture sector in Hull, City of Culture 2017 Michelle graduated with a first class honours degree in Interactive Media/Digital Media Journalism from Hull School of Art and Design 2009 – 2012.

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